Recap of Tale 1 . . .
“First tell me whom you serve,” Aragorn answered quickly. “Are you friend or foe to Sauron?”
“I serve only the Lord of the Mark, Theoden King son of Thengel. We do not serve the Black Land but we are not yet at open war with him; if you are fleeing his power, you had best leave this land. There is trouble on our borders and we are thre- atened, but we desire only to be free and to live as we have lived, keeping our own and serving no foreign lord, good or evil . . . Who are you? Whom do you serve? At whose command do you hunt orcs in our land?”
Aragorn shook his head. “I serve no man, but the servants of Sauron I pursue into whatever land they may go. There are few among mortal Men who know more of Orcs and I do not hunt them in this fashion out of choice. The Orcs that we follow have captive two of our friends. In such a need a man that has no horse will go on foot and he will not ask for leave to follow the trail. Nor will he count the heads of an enemy save with a sword. I am not weaponless.”
He threw back his cloak, revealing the elven-sheath he had been given, and Anduril’s blade flared brilliantly in the morning sun as he drew it. “Elendil! I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dunadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor! Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!”
I was quite impressed by this new side of Aragorn and so was everyone else. Eomer lowered his eyes respectfully. “These are indeed strange days . . . Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass . . . Tell me, lord, what brings you here? What was the meaning of the dark words? Long has Boromir, son of Denethor, been gone seeking an answer and the horse we lent him returned riderless. What doom do you bring from the North?”
“The doom of choice,” Aragorn replied. “You may say this to Theoden, son of Thengel: open war lies before him, with Sauron or against him. None may now live as they have lived and few shall keep what they call their own. But of these great matters we will speak later. If chance allows, I will come myself to the king. Now I am in great need and I ask for help, or at least for tidings. You heard that we are pursuing an orc-host that carried off our friends. What can you tell us?”
“That you need not pursue them further,” Eomer answered. “The orcs are all destroyed.”
“And our friends?”
“We found none but orcs.”
[I told you I saw them!] I hissed to Aragorn. [Heed not the blind eyes of these Men! They fought only for blood that day!]
[Shh!] Legolas commanded, covering my mouth with one hand and drawing me back against him. [Speak no ill of them when they cannot understand it!]
[You wish me to say it in the Common Tongue? Very well. Release me!]
He chuckled softly, but did not let me go. [You are a very strange elf indeed.]
[Are you implying that I am not truly an elf?]
[Is that the way you wish to take it?]
[If that is the way you mean it, then yes.]
“—It is now the fourth day since he was slain,” Aragorn informed Eomer softly, “and since the evening of that day we have journeyed from the shadow of Tol Brandir.”
“On foot?!” Eomer cried, stunned.
“Yes, even as you see us.”
Eomer’s face betrayed his wonder at our continuation. “Strider is too poor a name, son of Arathorn. Wingfoot I name you. The deed of the four friends should be sung in many a hall. Forty leagues and five you have measured ere the fourth day is ended! Hardy is the race of Elendil!
“But now, my lord, what would you have me do? War is nearly upon my land! Will you not come with me? Do I hope in vain that you have been sent to me for a help in doubt and need?”
“I will come when I may,” Aragorn answered.
“Come now!” Eomer urged. “The Heir of Elendil would be a strength indeed to the Sons of Eorl in this evil tide. There is battle even now upon the Westemnet and I fear that it may go ill for us. Will you not come? There are spare horses as you see. There is work for the Sword to do. And we could find a use for Gimli’s ax and Legolas’ bow, if they will pardon my rash words concerning the Lady of the Wood. I spoke only as do all men in my land and I would gladly learn better.”
I rolled my eyes. [And the female is left from the apology for the simple reason that she is a female even though the Lady of Wood is her Lady.]
Legolas held back a laugh. [I am sure he does not realize how close to the Lady you are, Kyshri.]
[Then why did he not ask?]
He tried not to laugh–oh, how he tried–but failed in the end. [Kyshri! Why ask such silly questions as those you know the answer to?]
“—This is my choice. You may go. I will lend you horses. I ask only this: whether your quest is achieved or in vain, return with the horses over the Entwade to Meduseld, the high house in Edoras where Theoden now sits. Thus you shall prove to him I have not misjudged. In this I place myself, maybe my very life, in the keeping of your good faith. Do not fail.”
“I will not,” Aragorn assured him.
“Bring the horses!” Eomer commanded.
Eothain snorted. “It may be well enough for this lord of the race of Gondor, as he claims, but who has heard of a horse of the Mark being given to a Dwarf?”
“My, you enjoy treading on everyone’s toes, do you not?” I snarled.
“Do not trouble,” Gimli said, unoffended. “No one will ever hear of it. I would sooner walk than sit on the back of any beast so great, free or begrudged.”
“But you must ride or you will hinder us,” Aragorn protested.
“Come, you shall sit behind me, friend Gimli,” Legolas decided. “Then all will be well and you need neither borrow a horse nor be troubled by one.”
A tall, dark-grey horse was given to Aragorn. “Hasufel is his name,” Eomer said with a pat to the horse’s neck. “May he bear you well and to better fortune than Garulf, his late master!”
I went to the third horse, a stallion, as a smaller and lighter but still fiery sort of horse was presented to Legolas. I checked the stallion’s legs and saw that they were as elves were: deceptively slim and powerful. His neck was well-muscled and arched proudly and his silver mane and tail stood in stark contrast to the rest of his bronze coat.
“What is the name of this one?” I asked.
Eomer looked over. “That is Quephiril. He is one of our fastest horses, but he is also very difficult to control, especially in a battle when emotions run high.”
I speared him with a sharp look. “Are you perhaps trying to imply that I am too weak to control him?”
“He is not to be considered a mount for females. Even his past master had trouble controlling him!”
“Then his past master was either a novice or a fool.”
Eomer bristled. ” Watch your tongue, she-elf.”
“Watch your own!” I spat. “You should feel blessed that I did not murder you and yours during the night with all your jeers and prods at me and my kin! I have not forgotten that!” With that, I proceeded to relieve the stallion of his saddle and bridle.
“What are you doing?!” Eomer cried, hurrying forward. Quephiril reared high, striking viciously with his hooves and forcing Eomer to duck to the side once more, his eyes shifting between me and the stallion as we held our ground.
“Daro!” I commanded firmly. [Descend, mighty courser! You need not prove your strength to me!]
The stallion dropped to the earth and snorted, his bright blue eyes locked on me. I lifted my hand and placed it on his nose. [Save your energy for when it is needed more,] I whispered.
He tossed his head and lifted himself onto his rear hooves only slightly, settling before me calmly. He bowed his head and then looked at me again. I smiled at him and placed my hands on his back, hopping lightly up. [Ah, now is that so bad? You must hardly know I am here. But let us get to know each other. Forward, great charger, but slowly.]
The stallion began to walk in a wide circle around the company. I felt him move beneath me and could not understand why the Rohirrim would risk such a stallion in battle. [Onward, Quephiril. A bit faster.]
He broke into a trot and then after a moment a canter.
[A wonderful display of grace! Now show me your true speed!]
Quephiril lunged into a powerful run. I waited a moment, then rose and stood upon the stallion’s back, simply bending my bow and sighting along nothing at several of the company experimentally.
I lifted my head and looked to Legolas, who had strung his own bow. He loosed the arrow and I caught it in my fingers, turning it to string and aim back at him as he strung another arrow. We loosed them at an unknown signal and watched as the two arrows collided and snapped the tips from each other.
I waved at Legolas and grinned. [Well done!] He waved in return and I settled to the stallion’s back again. [And well done for you also, majestic Quephiril. You may stop.]
The stallion came to a halt by Hasufel and Arod. The Riders of Rohan were staring at me, many in open-mouthed surprise. Eomer blinked. “I see that you are more than what we thought of you. If Quephiril wishes to carry you, then I bid you fare well on your journey.”
I nodded. “And perhaps upon our next meeting you can explain to me why such a fine example of a horse is being risked for war.”
“In these times,” Eomer answered immediately, “any horse may be used in a battle, no matter the risk.”
And so we departed, heading northward along the trail I had been. Aragorn stopped often to examine the trail, but there were so many horse hooves mingled with the orc-prints that he found it hard to search for hobbit-prints.
[How are you feeling?] Legolas asked me when we stopped for the night.
I tilted my head curiously. [Quite well, strangely. Unless it is some new sorcery, I believe I might be able to sleep tonight. Either that or I am so tired that I no longer care to tell the difference between magic and truth. But if you plan to remain awake all night, do wake me every hour to be sure.]
[If that is what you wish.] But he seemed relieved.
I curled up beside him and went to sleep, secure in the knowledge that I would be awakened soon and kept from a sleep of death.
. . . [Beware of battle, Kyshri.]
I spun, looking around Lady Galadriel’s hollow cautiously. I seemed to be alone, but if that was so, then where had the voice come from?
[Behind you, Kyshri.]
I whirled, coming face-to-face with . . . [Lord Celeborn.] I knelt respectfully.
He drew me to my feet. [Listen to me, Kyshri. What I see . . . ahead . . .] He shook his head. [I fear it.]
[What is it?]
He shook his head a second time and drew me into a gentle embrace. [Just remember: you are all that we have left. Take no risk unless there is no other choice. We are trying to help you as our powers allow.]
I nuzzled into his collar. [But how can I make the correct decision when I know not the consequences?]
He stroked my hair back. [For each the knowledge is different. But if all else fails, trust what your heart tells you.] He rested his cheek on my head. [We cannot lose you, Kyshri. We cannot lose you.] . . .
[ . . . Kyshri . . . Kyshri? . . . Kyshri, please! Wake!]
I started awake and found myself looking up into Legolas’ frightened eyes. [Legolas? Is something the matter?] He pulled me from the ground and squeezed me in relief. [. . . Legolas?]
[I have been calling to you for nearly ten minutes!] he cried softly. [I feared I had been distracted too long!]
[I was dreaming,] I soothed, closing my arms around him in reassurance. Looking past his shoulder to Aragorn, I asked of the Ranger, “What distraction?”
“We agree that Saruman has visited us this night,” he answered. ” He has scared away our horses and perhaps would have bestowed some mischief upon us if Gimli had not awakened us.”
I freed myself from Legolas’ grasp and stood. “Where was he?”
Gimli pointed to the tree we were near. “Right there beside the tree.”
I moved that way and closed my eyes, extending my senses. I caught whisps of magic, but nothing that seemed of particularly evil intent. I knelt down to examine the grass, though I knew it was a vain endeavor even without the cloak of night to hide clues. I somehow understood that whatever Gimli had seen, it was not something that could be explained so easily.
Rising again, I turned into the wind and angled my ears up and out. The cold air brought the whinnies and neighs of horses from a fair distance. If they were ours I heard, it was too far to go searching for them.
I sighed and turned to my companions, shaking my head. “If it was truly our steeds I perceived, we could not catch them.”
There was a long silence.
“Well,” Aragorn said finally, “they are gone. We cannot find them or catch them, so if they do not return of their own will we must do without them. We started on our feet and we still have those.”
So the watches were arranged again. I curled up by Legolas and yawned widely as I rested my head against his ribs and folded arms, drifting to sleep in the security of his presence.
Ah, please forgive how boring this Tale was, particularly at the beginning, and thanks for sticking with it anyway! The next one will be better, I promise.